NRR's 11th Narrative Poetry Contest - Semi Finalist
Ode for an Absent Student
So many dramas have played themselves out:
a girl who saw through us, our Scout’s-honor
truths; a girl scribbling her own proofs
on the walls of a cell; a girl singing Fado
in a tilted café, her star-rise a perfect –
a textbook – chandelle; or, a girl whose
shrill call feathers the walls of a well.
Well of knowledge, coins,
half-lives; mortar and water,
a god’s paring knife.
For his warrior mettle, Aristotle made Alexander
recite – not the songs of Ajax – but the chant
of his mother’s midwife. How she crooned
at the sight of his scalp. Quick breaths, short beats
like a cuckoo’s heart in flight; later, a conqueror’s lullaby;
an air in clipped verse for his trek across the east,
for his rise and fall, for the sound of his troops’ flat feet.
Airs like anthems we
hear in our sleep; bright conquests
or the dull retreat.
This morning marks three weeks. Your peers – all of us –
proceed because there is a map to walk, countries to
Hellenize – or not. Seas, you and Alexander must have
known, cannot be crossed with brute force, missiles
and stone. There is the compass that is another rower’s
heartache for his home; the crow’s nest call that it will
not be long. Things you forgot when you set out alone.